New Perspectives on Disney

Let me just start off by saying that I love Disney movies. Like, I’m that girl who will stay home on a Friday night, order pizza, and fire up her VHS player hoping that it’s not the night when it finally gives out.

A few nights ago, I was at my friend’s apartment (waiting to go laser tagging) and I was doing homework on the couch.  His roommate happened to be babysitting that night and the baby was throwing an absolute fit. So naturally, his first instinct was to change the TV from the football game to some sort of kid’s movie.  Next thing I know, the ‘Emperor’s New Groove’ is playing and I can no longer focus on my homework because all my attention has no been diverted to the TV.

So (and this was probably a sight to see), the 11 month old and I, of 21 years, are both sitting on the floor about 4 feet from the TV, mesmerized by the “magic” of a Disney movie.

But one of the very first scenes I saw, was not so… “magical”. Kuzco, the emperor and main character, was shown a line of women from which he needed to choose his wife. He then goes down the line of practically identical women saying, “Let’s take a look see; hate your hair, not likely, yikes, yikes” and then mockingly, “mm, let me guess you have a nice personality?”

Girls-in-the-Emperor-s-New-Groove-disney-females-31879932-820-589

Um…. what?!

Now, I’ve seen this movie probably about a hundred times and to be honest, this scene has never bothered me before, in fact, I haven’t even really noticed it.  But this was the exact moment in time (sitting next to a baby on the floor) that I realized how much of an impact this class is having on my awareness and consciousness of feminist issues.

And also how much of an impact Disney movies are having on children of both sexes.

I mean, let’s just talk about this for a second. This BABY sitting next to me was receiving a message that

  1. Men are the dominant figures of relationships
  2. They should choose their wives based on superficial characteristics (looks)
  3. Personality is not important

And that was just this one scene. So then I started thinking about all the other Disney movies, and “children’s” movies that this baby would be watching as she grows up. And to be honest, that thought kinda scared me a little.

From Feminist Disney
From Feminist Disney

“Most Disney movies present a heterosexual relationship between a hero and heroine. Feminists have been looking at what these relationships tell girls about themselves, but it’s just as important to think about what they tell boys about how ‘real men’ interact with and think about women. Often the message to boys, is that men should see women as objects of pleasure and servants to please them.” – Melissa Murphy

Melissa Murphy does a good job laying out some of the Masculinity and Male Views on Women in Disney movies, which include:

  • Beauty and the Beast: Gaston referencing women as being ‘game’
  • Mulan: When the men sing about what they want their future wife to be like (appearance, interests, duties, etc.)
  • Hercules: The ideal masculine look of a “hero”

Now of course there are many, many more examples from both past and present movies, and not just Disney’s. But we often tend to think of Disney as the most family friendly and “kid appropriate”.

Perhaps it’s time to reevaluate that perspective.

From Feminist Disney
From Feminist Disney

Checkout this great reads for more on the topic:

Also be sure to check out Feminist Disney itself – now that’s something truly magical (their image collection is my favorite)

4 thoughts on “New Perspectives on Disney

  1. I love this post! I think this is totally true. I worry about how girls may feel like they need to sacrifice parts of themselves to be with a man. Like Ariel LITERALLY gives away her voice- her agency- to be with a man. You bring up great points about the influence it could have on the next generation of women and men.

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  2. While I generally agree with this post, I take issue with your example. The scene with Kuzco is supposed to highlight how selfish and unlikeable he is. So, it teaches kids that that is NOT the way to treat woman. And in the end of the movie, after he’s learned his valuable life lessons, he doesn’t gain a wife. He gains friendship (With an entire family, that has both genders). As in, he is not “rewarded” with a pretty girl (the way disney movies traditionally end) but instead gains insight, maturity, and equal human companionship.

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  3. This always causes me problems – I still love Disney and probably always will, but I wish there were better female characters in it. I think there are some great female characters in Disney films nowadays, but still not there yet.

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